Friday, March 12, 2010

Queen Victoria’s Jubilee

Mark Twain (1835–1910)
From Mark Twain: A Tramp Abroad, Following the Equator, Other Travels

While in London in 1897, Mark Twain was commissioned by William Randolph Hearst to report for the San Francisco Examiner on the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne. Evoking historical detail reminiscent of passages in The Prince and the Pauper and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, Twain compares the jubilee to his own original and imaginative account of the 1415 celebration following the English victory at Agincourt, and he also reflects on the rapid changes in the British Empire during the Victorian age.

The two-part coverage of the Diamond Jubilee appeared in the newspaper on June 20 and 23 and was reprinted in other Hearst papers shortly afterward. In 1910—the year of Mark Twain’s death—the article was privately printed in a limited edition of 195 numbered books, and although it is not known whether this book version had the author’s sanction, a copy today can sell for several thousand dollars. The essay had not been readily available until it was included in the newly published Library of America volume of Mark Twain’s travel writings, and both parts are offered here for our readers’ enjoyment.

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LONDON, JUNE 19.—So far as I can see, a procession has value in but two ways—as a show and as a symbol; its minor function being to delight the eye, its major one to compel thought, exalt the spirit, stir the heart and inflame the imagination. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

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